"There’s no monsters under my bed
I found a Frisbee, a CD, and my Slinky instead."
-- Rock Kandy and the Roller Coasters
They should hold telethons for weak-tight disease. Those poor souls infected with this killer need to get cash wherever they can find
it because they sure won’t find much at a poker table. One aspect of weak-tight play is tendency to have irrational fears -- a fear of
monsters under the bed, or in their opponents’ hands.
Poker hands are played against other poker hands. The other hands you face (and the ability of the opponents holding those hands)
determine the strength or value of any specific hand you hold. In other words, poker hand values are relative. KK is more valuable
against KQ than against AQ.
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Many players look at this relativity of hand values and focus on how the KK has gone “down in value” against the AQ. As I've mentioned,
it does not matter at all if a hand is worth $18 in one situation and $15 in another. You just play it -- or you should anyway.
“Down in value” is a totally useless way to think about hand strength. What matters is if a hand has a positive value or a negative
value relative to the hands it faces. A hand’s relative value to itself in another situation should be completely unimportant to your
Sadly, many players miss this boat completely. For no
logical reason I can think of, they think about and base
decisions on this “down in value” nonsense. Recently on an Internet discussion group one player adamantly asserted that unsuited hands
“lose value” in a loose game. This is nonsensical in several ways, but the key thing is: what possible difference does this make!? All
I care about is if a hand is profitable or not. But many weak-tightees are mucking KQo and only calling with AQo in loose games based
on this “down in value” claptrap. “Down” does not mean “negative” but a lot of players seem to think so. They muck their hands and seemingly
pout in a corner (getting $0 in value in the process) because they don’t like that their hand is worth $15 in this situation and not $18.
I know what a lot of you are thinking. This just makes no sense -- people won’t throw away $15 just because they can’t have $18. All I
can say to that is, come to the Internet discussion groups (or listen in on conversations at the table) and you will be amazed at what
nonsense is commonly (and stubbornly) held by
a lot of players.
“Monsters under the bed”
paranoia is at the root of much of this sort of thinking. Weak-tight players seem to think that everybody else plays weak-tight too. They hold
KQo on the button in a loose Holdem game where all the other players play way too many hands. They see six people have limped, and they muck
their hand. The point here is not the actual lunacy of thinking KQo goes “down in value” because other folks are playing 75o(!). The point
is: what do they think those other folks have? What hand value do they think the other people have that renders their hand unprofitable?
(If this was a super-tight game, and six rocks enter the pot in front of you, that is an entirely different situation.) There are no monsters
under the bed. If a whole table of people plays way too many hands, they are playing junk, not monsters.
An Omaha8 example came up recently. Suppose you held AdQd8d8c on the button and six people limped in front of you. Many people just
viewed this hand as garbage and would never play it. But they never address the real question: what on Earth do those other folks
have? What cards can you stick in the hands of those six limpers (not to mention the blinds) to give them hands better than yours?
There simply are not enough good cards to go around for all of them! Your hand may be crappy, but it is almost certainly better than
half of the other hands in play. That in itself doesn’t make this hand profitable, but again that isn’t the point. In deciding whether
or not to play this hand, what matters is its relative value to the opposition. That is what you need to focus on. What do these
limpers have? The answer again is -- they don’t have monsters, they have crap. Some of them have to. There just aren’t enough good
cards for that many hands. With position and a suited-ace nut holding (in a nut game) you should see the flop.
Some people have a morbid fear of losing a hand. Get over it. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. You have to lose pots to win
pots. The idea is to make money with the hands you can make money with.
The idea is not to only play each card combination in its own most profitable situation.
Much of the difference between excellent poker players and mediocre ones is in the handling of marginal situations. If you don’t think
about what matters (the relative value of your hand in conflict with your current opponents’ likely hands) and you do think about what
is useless (comparing your current hand/situation to how it fares against ideal opposition), you will constantly leave extra value on
the table for better players to pick up.
More on Starting Hands,
Texas Hold'em Skill,
Weak-Tight Disease and
Also see Pokerstars Poker hand rankings